Project Management – must have skill for the future?

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 15-Mar-08
Faster, better, cheaper. We have all experienced these being the drivers for businesses as they seek to improve operational efficiency. Our world is changing and shrinking, and so incremental improvement no longer guarantees competitive advantage.
In our experience, business leaders are looking for a new model for success by deploying step changes, creating a capability to implement the strategic imperatives of their organisation. Big business is now embodying a business model where a programme/project director is on the board, responsible for delivering change as it is needed. They oversee the choice and deployment of business changes that deliver competitive advantage consistently, quickly and accurately. As such Project and Programme Managers can be seen as the “Creator of Competitive Advantage” and bring their skills to the boardroom not just the backroom.
At ProjExc we do provide that resource on an interim basis (full or part-time) for businesses, but more importantly, we help organisations to build the capability up for themselves. That in our view is critical, because the competitive advantage of today is the basic competitive requirement of tomorrow.
Want some help for your organisation? Call or email us – you will find the details at

Project Leadership Competence

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 07-Mar-08
Project Management is widely recognised as a critical factor in project success. ProjExc firmly believe that competence in project leadership is an essential part of a successful project manager’s toolkit.
We find that a successful Project Leader needs to be able to:
•    Develop the project vision
•    Build the project management team and lead the team through the key steps of the project management process
•    Lead the project team through the four stages of team development (Storming, Forming, Norming and Performing)
•    Demonstrate excellent communication skills: verbal, both one-on-one and with a group, and written skills.
•    Understand and use interpersonal relationship skills such as constructive feedback, conflict resolution, managing individual styles and personalities
•    Demonstrate high level facilitation skills
•    Be skilful at influencing, persuading and negotiating across the organization and removing obstacles for the team
•    Have the ability to accept criticism, feedback and input from others
•    Use skills in using tools and approaches such as brainstorming, organizing, decision making, project management, conflict resolution, and so on.
•    Sell and promote the project both within and often outside the organization.
Recognising this, Steve Harland our project leadership specialist has helped us to develop a number of project leadership development modules which can be structured around the specific needs of a business to provide a tailored project leadership programme. Typically these fall into 2 broad categories, i.e. Team Communication and Relationship Building, and Creating a High Performing Project Team.

IT Project Failures – reducing them using PPM

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 06-Mar-08
Michael Krigsman has written an interesting article on the ZDNET blog suggesting that while Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools can be useful, they are not the answer on their own. He suggests that from the perspective of IT failures, PPM brings discipline to four key areas:
•Standardizing the investment criteria used to evaluate project funding.
•Making project-related investments explicit.
•Prioritizing projects across the enterprise.
•Providing a way to measure project success, relative to organizational investment policies.

Six Sigma

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 26-Feb-08
This post has been prepared by the ProjExc Manufacturing and Supply Chain Specialist, Clifford Hobbs. It is an excerpt from a more detailed review of Six Sigma and Lean methodologies to improve business performance, which no doubt come to light in future posts on the ProjExc Blog.
Introduction – Six Sigma is a highly customer focused improvement tool that is underpinned by a philosophy of rigorous measurement.
‘a comprehensive and flexible system for achieving, sustaining and maximising business success. Six Sigma is uniquely driven by close understanding of customer needs, disciplined use of facts, data and statistical analysis and diligent attention to managing, improving and reinventing business processes’
The term ‘sigma’ means “Standard Deviation”. Standard Deviation measures the variability in a given distribution or population of events and can therefore be applied to a process.
Motorola developed Six Sigma in the mid 80’s. It was then successfully championed by Jack Welsh at General Electric in the 1990’s. Their success stories have prompted many western (and in particular USA) manufacturers to adopt Six Sigma. More recently companies in the service sector have started to introduce and adopt Six Sigma practices.
There are many aspects of Six Sigma that are similar to Total Quality Management (TQM), which preceded Six Sigma and in many peoples view has now been superseded by Six Sigma.
Overview – Sigma can be translated into the number of defects per million “events”.
Six sigma represents 3.4 defects per million events and is regarded as the ultimate goal for process performance – as close to perfection as is practicable.
This following gives the sigma to defect conversion ratio:
  • Six Sigma = 3.4 Defects per Million
  • Five Sigma = 230 Defects per Million
  • Four Sigma = 6210 Defects per Million
  • Three Sigma = 66,800 Defects per Million
  • Two Sigma = 308,000 Defects per Million
  • One Sigma = 690,000 Defects per Million.
The ultimate goal of a Six Sigma programme is to reduce the number of defects per million opportunities to 3.4 – the equivalent of a 99.997% quality level.
Methodologies – There are different approaches to implementing Six Sigma although the main principles are as follows:
1.    Identify core processes and key customers
2.    Define customer requirements
3.    Measure current performance
4.    Prioritise, analyse and implement improvements
5.    Expand and integrate the Six Sigma system.
The Six Sigma approach is strongly focused on ensuring effective processes from the perspective of the final customer. Critical processes are identified as part of the analysis of customer requirements, and statistical methods are applied to measure the variation of these processes against customer/market determined “tolerances”. Techniques such as SPC and Design of Experiments are used to identify the root cause of poor process capability or to monitor processes in real time.
Improvement cycles are core to Six Sigma. An example being as follows:
1.    Prioritise areas of improvement
2.    Define processes that contribute to problems
3.    Measure the capability of each process
4.    Analyse the data
5.    Control process variability
6.    Standardise methods
7.    Integrate methods into design/process cycle
There are many statistical tools that are used within Six Sigma including: Quality Function Deployment, Run Charts, Pareto Charts, Histograms, Fishbone diagrams, Process Mapping, Design of Experiments, Project Definition, F-tests, Chi-Square Tests, Multivariate Studies, Fractional Factorials and Failure Mode and Effect Analysis.
Summary – Six Sigma pulls together well established operational tools and techniques that have been around for a number of decades. Over the last few years it has become increasingly popular with larger organisations and non manufacturing organisations. This is because it is very customer focused and has a strong emphasis on measurement and delivery of quantifiable benefit.
However, introducing Six Sigma is a high profile company-wide event and therefore the consequence of failure is significant. It is very ‘resource hungry’, and as with any major change initiative, will require total commitment from across the organisation and the infrastructure and organisation to support it.
The focus of much of the approach is on advanced statistical techniques, which can be complex and inappropriate for the majority of organisations, where the real challenge is to build simple and robust foundations for improvement. The advanced tools have their uses within an organisation that has already put in place the basic foundations of operational good practice, but their premature introduction in the wrong circumstances can place Six Sigma in the ‘next failed initiative’ category, making further improvement even harder.
Success in a Six Sigma program is subject to the same influences as many other change programmes i.e. leadership commitment to the program, involvement of staff at an early stage, integration of the change programme into the business practices of the organisation, good change management skills, and a clear focus on the end goal. Six Sigma Programmes (and Lean Programmes) are usually total company initiatives involving significant roll out costs, training and dedicated resource.
Effective Six Sigma programmes build on organisational capability and culture such as Continuous Improvement, Best Practice, team working and a measurement focus.
Six Sigma should not be viewed as something new or revolutionary and distinct from the day to day disciplines that companies should build in to their operations.
Comments on this posting from ProjExc Manufacturing and Supply Chain Specialist, Clifford Hobbs, are welcomed on the blog, or if you would like to discuss the subject some more, then contact details can be found on the ProjExc corporate website.

Looking for PM Tools – where do you start?

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 25-Feb-08
At ProjExc we are often asked to provide Project Management tools. This is one question where we answer “no”, but for a good reason.
There is no, “one size fits all solution”. We believe that it is crucial to get the process right for the organisation first, and then to go to the market for the best solution, which will be different depending on needs, legacy systems, budget, etc. Each time we trawl the market there is a huge array of tools out there, and they are all evolving quickly, with new entrants joining the market place on what feels like a daily basis. We continue to maintain our position of independence from the tool suppliers, and support our client in the specification, procurement and integration process for appropriate tools, as they need.
There is a helpful resource available on the excellent website of the PM Today Magazine. If you’re seeking some project management software for the 1st time, this could be a good place to start, but be aware that there are many other excellent tools out there which are not included in the list. We’re compiling a list of our own at the moment, which we hope to add to the ProjExc PM Portal website soon.

Online PM Tools

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 19-Feb-08
A number of clients have asked us recently for help in sourcing and adapting online project management functionality, in support of their project process. A little research has thrown up a plethora of tools which work at a broad range of levels. They include the likes of Comindwork, OPMCreator which offer various “teamroom” type functionality. We’d love to find an online (decent) gantt chart tool for the occasional user, so if any reader can recommend anything we’d love to hear from you, either as a blog comment or via the many routes to ProjExc listed on our website. Of course we will be keeping our eyes peeled at the forthcoming Project Challenge event, so watch this space.

10 Tips for Great IT Managers

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 14-Feb-08
I recently read a great article on ZDNET providing advice to IT managers challenged by the common problem of reaction overtaking their proaction.  The advice in summary provides 10 great tips:
1. Spend time (and money) developing your people
2. Get to know what your staff really does
3. Don’t do it for them
4. Know the business and make sure it knows you
5. Treat communication as a busy, fast-moving, two-way street
6. Encourage everyone to work as a team
7. Provide feedback regularly and let employees know what you want
8. Hire well
9. Understand best IT practices, but don’t just make them buzz words
10. Be a good project manager
The advice to be a good project manager is:
“Did your last project suffer scope creep? Most projects, particularly IT ones, don’t fail because the project itself was bad. Most failures are a result of weak project management. If you haven’t had any formal project management training, find and invest in a good program.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that simply by having regular meetings, you are managing the project. And since IT usually has more projects than people, be sure to train lead workers with basic project management skills so you can delegate specific aspects of the project or even entire projects to their control.”
This is good advice, but only part of the story.  In our experience at ProjExc, it is critically important that those managing projects (especially if it is not their main responsibility) are given the support of appropriate methods/processes and systems which match the methods, otherwise the investment in the training can be wasted or worse.

PRINCE2™ Methodology

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 21-Jan-08
Welcome to the launch issue of the new ProjExc Newsletter. Sent out monthly, the newsletter discusses a range of Project Management related topics, and shares ProjExc related news.
This month we look at how a pragmatic approach to project management can be a real differentiator for a business, where PRINCE2™ fits into the picture and some of the new ways in which you can keep up with what ProjExc are doing, and could do for your organisation.
ProjExc are a small, highly specialised project management company. We deliver high impact results – we do not accept project failure (against the back-drop of UK project failure rates currently being around 70%!). We bring over a decade of experience in achieving excellent project management performance – experience gained from delivering results for many blue chip organisations.
Project Management – A Pragmatic Approach.  For the uninitiated, Project Management looks simple. When you scratch the surface it can suddenly become a daunting subject with a multitude of aspects. Organisations like APM, PMI, OGC tell us how to do it well. There are more software packages available than we care to imagine, all claiming to provide a cure-all (to undefined problems!). And then there is added confusion from the techniques and templates available. See PRINCE In Context below for more. Different projects (change, product development or client deployment) and different industries/organisations all have different demands and angles to consider.
Taking a pragmatic approach to selecting some solid tools and techniques, and applying them in a relevant & scalable way can add significant strengths to any organisation keen to manage project risks, protect their finances and add a competitive edge to their business.
This is the ProjExc Way. By combining a common sense, no nonsense approach, with the right people and a passion for success we create value for our clients. Just as importantly, we help them to stand out from the crowd.
PRINCE2™ In Context.  We are often challenged by new or prospective clients by statements along the lines of “I’ve spent a fortune putting my PMs through PRINCE2 training, and we’re still encountering regular project failure. Why?“. Of course there could be a number of reasons, but generally we find that it’s because there is a misunderstanding of what PRINCE2 is. In short, PRINCE2 is only part of what project management is about.
PRojects IN Controlled Environments is a project management methodology published by the OGC, a UK government agency responsible for promoting best practice in many areas of management, including Project Management.  PRINCE2 is not, and was not designed to, cover all of the detailed tools and techniques used in managing projects. It was designed to provide a consistent, well structured framework for the processes involved in managing projects, and can provide a link between business processes and project tools and techniques.  Derived from PROMPT, the 1st version of PRINCE was significantly updated in the mid 1990’s creating PRINCE2. It has 2 main elements – processes and components.

PM Resourcing

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 21-Jan-08

It is important that we practice what we preach. Managing projects keeps our consultants (or as we like to call them ProjExcineers) fresh, bringing “best practice” to real projects and consulting assignments alike.

At ProjExc we will only provide professional interim managers with considerable experience of a vast mix of project types in most industry sectors. Our Project Managers can work on a full or part-time basis to best suit the needs and resources of our clients.

We have considerable strengths and are often engaged in all project “types”, namely:

  • Business Change Projectse.g. new system introduction; relocation, business restructuring, procurement projects, bid management
  • Client Delivery Projects (often called jobs or contracts), e.g. software or equipment rollout, web design, volume purchase, or manufacturing deliveries.
  • Product Development Projectsi.e. tangible, service or system solution products through all stages of the development lifecycle.
  • System Integration Projectse.g. multi-vendor, multi-platform integration systems

If you want more information, or just a chat about any project management resourcing issue give us a call. We would love to hear from you.

ProjExc – delivering Project Excellence for business success.

PM Development

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 21-Jan-08
At ProjExc we will start to help your organisation to develop its Project Management Capability with a systems review, finding what’s right for your business, rather than forcing you into prescriptive ways.
We work with what we call the 3 elements for Project Excellence – tools, processes and people. The review report will highlight the quick wins and longer term development targets that we identify.  This will enable successful methodology selection, development & tailoring, together with suitable project management tool implementation.
This works hand-in-hand with our effective development of the relevant people in your organisation through an appropriate mix of competence assessment, and structured competence development using facilitated team development. We can mix workshops, training events, e-learning and individual development & coaching, all with measured results.